Sticking to healthy eating resolutions can be hard, but there are ways to set yourself up for success. And even if you slip up, it’s okay! Be kind to yourself, and just try to do a little better next time. Here are some of the best tips to keep you on track well into the new year—and beyond.
If water were a food, it would be a superfood. It helps digestion, promotes clear skin, acts as an appetite suppressant, and even prevents heart disease, among many other benefits. Some research has even shown that drinking water can speed up metabolism and help you lose weight. Although the whole drink-eight-glasses-a-day advice is now thought to be a myth, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s better than drinking energy drinks, soda, or flavored waters that may contain lots of sweeteners. Stick to filtered tap, and cut it with naturally sweetened fruit juice if you get bored, or try infusing water for low-calorie, unsweetened elixirs like this Green Herb Infusion. At work, keep a large pitcher of water at your desk, so you don’t have to keep getting up to refill your glass.
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Make big batches of infused water (or homemade iced tea) in this pitcher to keep you hydrated all day long.
Buy some produce on a Sunday, then spend a half hour washing, chopping, and storing it in containers in your fridge (Mason jars look cool, but these meal prep containers may be a bit more useful). Make enough salad dressing for the whole week. Then, before work, all you have to do is add greens and assemble for lunch. It’s OK to dress the salad in the morning if you refrigerate it when you get to work (and if the produce is sturdy enough to hold up, of course). Check out these vegetarian blogs to inspire even more veggie-heavy meals for your future rotation.
It’s a good rule of thumb that the more colorful the food, the more healthy it is. For instance, squash, carrots, spinach, and kiwi are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. White and beige foods like cheese, french fries, white rice, white flour, and white sugar should be eaten in moderation, because they’re either high in saturated or trans fats, or overly processed and lacking in nutritional value. Similarly, when you eat vegetables, leave the skins on if they’re more colorful than the interior (for example, zucchini and cucumber), because that’s where a lot of the vitamins are.
This serves as a powerful reality check for what you’re truly eating, not what you’d like to think you’re eating. In addition to detailing your diet, you can also write down what is going on in your life in case you fall off the healthy wagon. External stresses often cause us to seek comfort in food: “Divorce paperwork filed: Caramel latte and devil’s food cupcake, 4 p.m.” It’s easier to change behaviors if you first know what causes them—but also recognize that this can be a bad idea for those who struggle with disordered eating (if you do, suspect you might, or know someone who does, visit the National Eating Disorders Association for help and information). The goal is not to obsess over every calorie or make yourself feel bad, but to see an honest snapshot of what you’re consuming, and that can be helpful for many people. You may also want to look into intuitive eating (or mindful eating).
Ingredients, that is. It can be hard to overhaul your eating habits all at once, but making many small changes over time is a good method to lasting change. Or it can be a thing that’s nice to do once in a while when you feel like something lighter (or better for the planet as well as for yourself). Think trying non-dairy milk instead of the regular stuff, or cutting some carbs with cauliflower rice. Check out our guide to 13 healthy ingredient swaps and substitutions for lots of other good ideas.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’ve crossed the line from nourishing yourself to overeating. That’s because it takes up to 15 minutes for your brain to receive signals from your digestive system that you’re full. Eating slowly can help (some people recommend using chopsticks to pace yourself), because that gives your brain time to catch up. Also, if you’re unsure, try asking yourself, “Would I eat an apple right now if one was offered to me?” If the answer is no, you’re eating just to eat, not because you’re still hungry. (And occasionally, it might be better to eat an apple instead of some other snack, even if it is plant-based.)
You always hear about how you’re supposed to eat lots of vegetables, seasonal if possible. But often they sit around in your fridge and go bad because you don’t know what to do with them. In a pinch, just chop them up and sauté them with olive oil, garlic, and salt. This works for everything from bok choy to kale to Jerusalem artichokes. If it’s something hard, like broccoli stalks or butternut squash, simply cut the vegetable up really small. Get some of other favorite garlic recipes if you can’t enough of that flavor.
Many of us put meals at the bottom of our priority list, leaving us scarfing down a lunch of frozen lasagna while multitasking on the computer or gobbling a granola bar on the morning commute, at best. It’s worth attempting to eat a better breakfast in particular, since it’ll get your day started off right and set the tone for the next several hours. Check out our tips on how to eat a healthy breakfast every day—and consider leaning on technology, too. You can use your Crock-Pot to make Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal that you start before you go to bed so you wake up to a hearty, healthy breakfast. Or, if you rise in time, you can try some Instant Pot breakfast recipes on for size.
9. Bag Half to Go.
When eating out, bag half your meal to go before you even start. Most restaurant portions are too big, so either ask the server to split your order and put half in a to-go box at the beginning, or request a box and do it yourself. Then you won’t be tempted to dig into the second half while it’s sitting in front of you. And you’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day.
It’s the easiest way to be sure you’re getting nutritious food, anyway. Spend less time reading the fine print for calories and grams of fat by eating stuff that has no label. Whole fruits, vegetables, and bulk grains don’t have labels. Foods that haven’t been chopped up, chemically altered, and screwed around with in factories (i.e. processed) have no labels. Even that healthy energy bar you’re buying that costs $3 and the label says is made of dates and nuts—how about just buying some dates and nuts and saving yourself $2?
Another way to help yourself stick to eating healthy? Try a meal kit. We reviewed our favorite meal kit delivery services to help you choose which one is best for you. We also tried and reviewed Sakara, a prepared meal delivery service with a focus on superfoods.
For more tips, tricks, and healthy recipes, check out our healthy living page.
Related Video: Eight Healthy Goals You Can Actually Stick to In 2019
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